What’s in Your Medicine Cabinet?

Do you have an abundance of pill bottles and medicine containers in your medicine cabinet? If so, you’re not alone. Many Americans store both prescription and over-the-counter medicines in their medicine cabinet. While it’s important to have access to the medicines you and your family need, it’s also important to know the health hazards they pose. In this blog, we offer tips for identifying the shelf life of common medications and how to dispose of them of them safely.

Over-the-Counter Meds

While everyone in your family has individual health needs, it’s important to keep common over-the-counter medications on hand in case someone in your household falls ill. These may include:

  • Pain relievers
  • Fever reducers
  • Cough and cold medications
  • Antihistamines
  • Digestive aids
  • Ointments and creams
  • Burn remedies

The law requires manufacturers to stamp every medication with an expiration date. Although many over-the-counter medications can be safely taken after the expiration date has passed, some should be disposed of instead. Always check the expiration date on each bottle before using. Remember, since medicine cabinets are often located in humidity-prone bathrooms, some over-the-counter medications may expire before the designated expiration date. Be on the lookout for discolored or crumbling medications.

Over-the-counter medications may be disposed of in the trash, but when doing so, follow these guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Depending on the medication, options include:

  • Medicine take-back
  • Disposal in household trash
  • Flushing certain potentially dangerous medicines in the toilet

Prescription Drugs

Prescription medications vary in toxicity. As a result, each has its own disposal or “take-back” instruction printed on the prescription bottle. Unused portions of the following prescription drugs must be flushed down the toilet:

  • Morphine
  • Demerol
  • Fentanyl
  • Buprenorphine (used to fight addiction)
  • Methylphenidate (used to treat ADHD)
  • Diazepam (used to treat anxiety, seizures)

The FDA has acknowledged the environmental risk of this practice, but has deemed the practice worth the environmental risk as it prevents accidental human exposure to toxic medications. Since trace residues of pharmaceutical medications can be toxic, rinse out prescription bottles with soap and water. Remove the label and shred it to prevent your personal and medical information from being stolen. Then determine if the bottle or container can be safely recycled.

Don’t forget to clarify prescription and over-the-counter medication disposal requirements with your pharmacist or doctor.

For more helpful tips on avoiding medical waste disposal mistakes, please call us at 770-832-7736.

Med Dog Waste Management is a locally-owned and operated company and Certified Woman’s Business Enterprise that has been serving organizations in Atlanta and Northeast Georgia with medical waste disposal services since 2001.


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